Bloomberg's Richard Rubin and Kathleen Hunter outline
the top policy priorities of Senate Republicans:
Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate will try to force a politically weakened President Barack Obama to accept changes to his health-care law, back off on tough environmental rules and nominate judges they endorse.
But while that may be their agenda, that doesn't mean they can achieve it, because:
Control of Congress doesn’t grant absolute power and in many cases, it will shift the divide, not eliminate it. The Senate’s procedural rules that require 60 votes for most legislation, as well as the presence of Obama in the White House, will limit what Republicans can do.
Obama can veto any bill, and it would take two-thirds of the members in both chambers to override him. If the president maintains support among congressional Democrats, Republicans will have to negotiate with him rather than stampede over him.
The veto is the key: Senate Republican leadership will undoubtedly face pressure from Ted Cruz and his minions to pursue reconciliation and perhaps even eliminate the filibuster, steps that would allow Senate Republicans to easily pass legislation with a simple majority. But even if they get their way, they can't change the fact that President Obama wields the veto pen and without assembling a two-thirds majority in both chambers, they won't be able to override his vetoes.
Unless Republicans magically decide they want to move forward with issues like comprehensive immigration reform or real tax reform (as opposed to tax cuts for the wealthy disguised as reform), this is obviously a recipe for gridlock, but if the choice is between repealing Obamacare and accepting gridlock, the choice is clear. Republicans will no doubt whine about it, and they'll complain about President Obama ignoring their "mandate" from voters, but let's not forget: Every time President Obama has been on the ballot nationally, he's won. And far more Americans voted in 2008 and 2012 than 2010 and 2014.
Heading into 2016, the right move for Republicans would be to do things like working with President Obama to make Obamacare even better, moving forward with comprehensive immigration reform, and funding the government without shutdown brinksmanship and drama. But we all know that probably isn't going to happen, and if President Obama and congressional Democrats are smart, they won't offer the GOP a helping hand unless it does.